Posts Tagged ‘BtoBe’

Rick: A Dedicated Team Member

August 1st, 2016

This #WeBelongWR video comes to us from Bridges to Belonging, produced by Commons Studio. In it, they share a glimpse into the life of Rick, a dedicated and passionate team member. Thanks to Bridges to Belonging and Rick for sharing this story!

Rick is a man who always loved to help on his local hockey team.  His friends will tell you that Rick is a dedicated, passionate team member. He is the first guy at the rink, and the last to leave.

What you may not know about Rick is that he has a developmental disability. When we pursue our passions, our limitations tend to disappear!

Enjoy this glimpse into one of the ways Rick contributes to his community each day.

Would We Embrace Emperor Norton?

July 4th, 2016

This post, written by Bridges to Belonging‘s Executive Director, Cameron Dearlove, tells the heartwarming tale of one community’s love affair with their “Emperor”, and challenges us to consider whether our community would similarly embrace Emperor Norton. This piece was originally published in The Community Edition.  Thank you for sharing this piece, Cameron!

On September 17, 1859, in the San Francisco Bulletin newspaper, Joshua Norton declared himself Emperor of the United States. Though the editors may have printed his words as a joke, this ludicrous declaration was the beginning of a 20 year love affair between Norton and his community.

Early in his reign, Emperor Norton issued decrees dissolving congress and ordering the US Army to depose the elected officials. Though these decrees were ignored, Norton persisted in his reign, proposing changes that he believed were necessary to better the city and nation.

At times he was visionary: he issued a decree to form a League of Nations (later founded in 1920), and a decree for the construction of a suspension bridge connecting Oakland and San Francisco (the Bay Bridge opened in 1936).

When not issuing royal decrees, Emperor Norton could be found inspecting the streets, sidewalks, cable cars, and even the appearance of police officers in San Francisco. His regal attire consisted of an elaborate blue uniform adorned with decorations given to him by US Army officers, a beaver hat with a peacock feather and a cane or umbrella.

Nort10dOver the years, citizens of San Francisco grew to love and revere their sovereign. Though penniless, Norton ate at the finest restaurants and had reserved balcony seats for theatre openings. He issued his own money, which became accepted local currency. When his royal uniform became ragged, the Board of Supervisors purchased him a replacement, for which he issued each of them a “patent of nobility in perpetuity.”

When a police officer arrested him for lunacy with the intention of committing him to involuntary mental health treatment, the citizens and newspapers were outraged, leading to Norton’s release and a formal apology from the police chief. Emperor Norton graciously issued an imperial pardon to the errant police officer. From then on, Norton was saluted on the street by the police.

And why wouldn’t they love Emperor Norton, when he kept the city safe? With racial tensions high, there were occasional demonstrations and riots against the Chinese community. During one riot, Emperor Norton placed himself between the two parties and recited the Lord’s prayer until everyone peacefully dispersed.

On January 9, 1880, the San Francisco Chronicle’s front page headline read “Le Roi est Mort.” His pauper’s coffin and funeral were replaced by a rosewood casket and a royal farewell, funded by the San Francisco businessman’s association. An estimated 10,000 people representing all classes from the community came out for the funeral, paying respects to the fallen “Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.”

Emperor_Joshua_A._Norton_IWould Waterloo Region embrace Emperor Norton? In today’s busy world, would our community spend the time to get to know and honour someone a little bit different? If you saw Emperor Norton inspecting King Street in his full regalia, would you take an interest in him as a person, or walk the other way?

If we aren’t that community, we could be.

A great community is one where our differences are not only tolerated or accepted, but embraced and celebrated. Where our diversity is our strength, and compassion our glue. Where the oddballs, misfits, and shockingly ordinary all belong. Where different is an undeniably positive adjective.

This summer, Bridges to Belonging is launching a campaign called #WeBelongWR to get us thinking not just about the importance of belonging, but about what each of us can do to create a community where everyone belongs. Belonging often feels abstract, but its impact is very real. Our actions should be real, too. We Belong encourages each of us to foster a sense of belonging in others through simple, everyday actions with friends, neighbours, colleagues and strangers.

Everyone deserves to be embraced like Norton was; to have their presence welcomed, their voice heard, and their life and impact on others celebrated. I invite you to visit to see how you can get involved and make your community one where everyone is treated like an Emperor.

You’re the Expert – Finding Belonging Through Storytelling

June 17th, 2016

This post comes to us from Bridges to Belonging:

It’s easy to look at a negative experience and believe that it reflects on you as a person. “It’s just me” or “It’s because of my own shortcomings” are common thoughts that can entrap us in deeper feelings of loneliness and separation from others. We begin to attribute the obstacles in our life to the flaws we see in ourselves, and believe that we are alone in our struggles.

Feeling that you are the only one who is struggling can make you feel isolated from others, which can be incredibly damaging to your emotional, physical, and mental well-being. That’s why it’s important to recognize those moments when you’re blaming yourself for something that went wrong, and shift your thoughts from “It’s because of me” to “This is something many people face; I’m not alone.”

Stanford psychologist Dr. Gregory Walton developed a technique called Attributional Retraining that helps people make that shift. The key to this technique is in storytelling: when you go through a negative event, try sitting down and writing about your experience (you can also draw it out). Now that you’ve been through it once, think of yourself as an expert on the matter and reflect on what happened; make suggestions for how others can cope in the same situation.

As Walton says, “We often operate from very biased information. We have our own experience and can only see others from the outside. Many of us are having these same difficulties, but no one is showing it, and so we can feel isolated and depressed.

By telling our experiences as a story to another person, we begin to understand that our situation is something that others go through as well. It can be hard for many people to manage intense emotions, work up motivation, or deal with disappointment. If you share your experience in trying to do these things, others might learn how to deal with those problems, too.

Attaching a narrative three-actsframework to your struggles can also help reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by them. By organizing your experience into a beginning, middle, and end, “the meaning of the negative experience is constrained, and people understand that when bad things happen, it’s not just them, they are not alone, and that it’s something that passes.” Even if your problem hasn’t ended yet, reflecting on what has already happened can help you plan for what’s to come. You can even try writing a hopeful end, and make that hopeful end the goal you are working towards.

Once you’ve written down your experiences, read it over and keep the suggestions you came up with in mind. The next time you come across someone facing the same troubles, you can tell them your story and give them your advice. That way, both of you will know that it’s not just you, that others go through the same problems, and that we can all move forward and beyond our struggles together.



Amanda Enayati, “The importance of belonging.”

Gregory Walton, “A Brief Social-Belonging Intervention Improves Academic and Health Outcomes of Minority Students.”

Greg’s Life after High School

June 2nd, 2016

This story posted by Bridges to Belonging:

This story came to us from Greg and his mother about building the life he wanted after graduating from high school. Thanks for sharing, Greg!

A year prior to graduation, we began discussing what would Greg like to do after high school. Greg was so excited to be finishing his last year of school and I began feeling every emotional; I was overwhelmed with joy, fear, excitement, and apprehension. I began embracing the idea that we were starting the next chapter of Greg’s life. 22E70B02-3593-4580-9CF2-24DF7174CDA585ED5B57-98F9-4664-AD58-2D34A2ACC4C1

Greg had expressed interest in being paid for a job. Not an easy task for our children to find. He also wanted to learn how to play the guitar and have a six-pack; Greg wanted a personal trainer.

During Greg’s high school years he had taken all the auto shop and hospitality courses and enjoyed them all but his passion was/is cars. We also had an updated resume and reference letters from his co-op employer.

Greg completed several years of co-op at St. Vincent de Paul prior to his last year of co-op in the school cafeteria. Greg became a cafeteria supervisor due to his attention to detail.

With the prep work done we approached St. Vincent de Paul and Greg handed in his resume. They remembered Greg was a great worker and of course they would love to have him volunteer.

I hired Lori Maloney-Young, a Bridges to Belonging Facilitator to help me find a job in the food industry for Greg and to help me with other transition needs. Lori took Greg to Queen’s Common Café in Kitchener and introduced him to the staff and tasks he would be doing and Greg said he wanted to work there. Together Lori and I worked on bus training for Greg. Since we live in Cambridge, this was a big deal to have Greg take a bus to the Cambridge Ainslie Terminal and then transfer to the iExpress to Kitchener.

Next, I visited Community Living in Cambridge and checked out what they had to offer. Courses, dances, groups etc. One program offered was a “fun and fitness” program at the YMCA with a personal trainer. Greg was signed up and spent Thursday mornings working out, playing basketball and working on his six-pack.5C59DF71-28EA-42CF-AA39-8AE2BB90826F56BE7C6B-F628-4588-90EB-D43F5CCD393C

Now, we had four week days busy plus working on busing. Greg still wanted to work more and questioned when was he starting guitar lessons? My next task began. I knew a few young men who were in Greg’s youth group who played guitar. One young man was very keen to teach Greg. Greg has been doing guitar lessons for 9 months and progressing well. Another tick on our list.

Lori called me in April and asked me if Greg still wanted to work with cars? My response was a definite YES. Lori told me she had met a man, Shane Leonard (car salesman) who has a son with Down Syndrome while she was test driving a car. Shane wanted to learn about becoming a facilitator. They met at the café on a day that Greg was working. Greg was friendly and Shane saw that Greg was a hard worker. Later, Shane spoke with his boss at the KIA dealership in Cambridge and suggested that they hire someone to do jobs the salesmen are too busy to do. The job would start off with a day per week and go from there. Shane called Lori and asked her if she could recommend anyone for a position that KIA would create. He also asked about the young man he had met?

Next Shane contacted Greg, he was interviewed and taken to the dealership to meet the boss. Greg was hired! Greg’s passion for cars shone. Greg needed training and Shane worked with Greg on his day off as his facilitator. After a few one per week training sessions, Greg started working two paid days per week. Dreams do come true! Greg has been working successfully for more than 6 months at KIA. Greg will continue to learn and as he is successful with new tasks he will be trained to do more. Greg hopes to help with oil changes and tire rotation one day, but for right now Greg is happy wearing his KIA shirt and working with the great KIA team.

D62B688C-3157-4F6F-BD1A-F3BCF6B0140EE20627DB-1037-44AC-B326-7CE617E97F5FWe hope that other businesses will create jobs for people with special needs to learn and become successful employees. It is about finding the right fit and looking for opportunities.

Transition can be stressful and will be ongoing, but with networking, contacts, friends, associations and some luck it can be very rewarding. With every transition come new dreams and possibilities. All we can do is try our best for our children.

Shane Leonard and Lori Maloney-Young have helped Greg with his future and we are very appreciative.

We would also like to thank the Down Syndrome Society for offering the Transition Bursary. The bursary makes it much easier to afford the extra services Greg needs.

Thank you for letting us share,

Greg and Cindy

Way to go, Greg!

A Day in the Life of Russell

June 2nd, 2016

A video created by The Working Centre:

A snapshot of a day in the life of Russell, a young man with Down syndrome who is in his first year after high school.

Thank you to Duncan Finnigan at the Multicultural Cinema Club, based at The Working Centre in Kitchener, Ontario, for this video.

It is meant to inspire others that with a little planning and support you don’t have to fear the larger world after school finishes. Russell uses the services of Facile Waterloo Region and his facilitator Lori Maloney-Young.




Anthony’s Job

May 30th, 2016

A story from Bridges to Belonging:

Anthony is a student at Conestoga College.  He loves film and media and wanted to do something productive over the summer.

Through the Volunteer Action Centre Website we found a great opportunity with the City of Kitchener working with Janice Lee, the Artist in Residence over the summer. The project is Folk Myths of Kitchener. It involves the creation of four video poems and poster editions that stem from a collaborative process with our local community. The poems featured the Kitchener Market, Kitchener Libraries, The Iron Horse Trail and Downtown Kitchener. Way to go, Anthony!